While out shopping with the son last week, I was reminded that I’m a shite mum. I had intended, as a housewarming gift, to set Phoenix up with a basic collection of herbes et épices for his new digs. As the frenzy and frantic of his moved bumped right up against the frenzy and frantic of our move, the project got back-burnered until said shopping trip when he excitedly told me that his lady-love intended to drop a couple of hundred clams from her tax return on said same setup.
See? Shite mum.
That might be a bit dramatic.
Surprise of delectable edibles: out the window.
“Let yo’ mama do that for you, laddy-buck.”
The daughter also managed to get in on the action due to finagling her way into me cooking for her and a friend and happening to moan a bit about needing to re-stock herself.
Worlds collided, man.
I didn’t get to spoil my loin fruits much when they were young because we were pretty damned broke much of the time – always dancing back and forth across the fine line between straight-up poverty and having enough resources that we qualified for no resources. Now that I’m a little more financially endowed, I can splurge on them a little here and there for no good reason beyond simply wanting to.
Ok, I guess knowing that a well-stocked spice cupboard lends itself to frequent cooking which generally leads to saving money and eating healthier counts as a motivator, too.
I put the notion out there lightly because there’s a whole lot of classist bullshit behind that, so perhaps more on that in another post.
Also, spoiling adult children is a metric pantload more fun than spoiling proper children because they’re no longer ungrateful little shits.
Gift certificates to the joints where they purchase their work wear are godsends.
Surprise them with new socks? BEST DAY!!!
So, I came up with a list of 41 essential herbs and spices and yesterday, the BFF and I set out to spoil.
You guys, nothing reminds me more of my glaring whiteness and place in the colonial machine than pantry-stocking adventures. I can feel the weight of an incredibly complicated history bearing down as my basket gets heavier. I would not be here today were it not for these wee bags of delicious gems for which I am charged a song thanks to trade embargoes other nations have with those countries who send to ol’ Canadia monster-sized bags of the most delicious tarragon for all of five quid.
Fuck yes, I will exploit the shit out of that, but only from joints run by immigrants.
I AM CANADIAN. LOOKIT ME INSTERSECTIONIN’ LIKE A MAD INTERSECTIONIN’ THING.
I am also not above having my whitey ignorance exploited. Take the following exchange, for example:
“I got in the loveliest new rose water. You cook. I know you do, so you’re going to need that.”
“Yes! Yes I AM going to need that!” For what? I’m not sure. Probs Turkish delight. I have never made Turkish delight, nor have I ever thought to do so, but should I ever get a hankering to do so, I am now equipped with rose water.
“We also have this (points to pomegranate paste), but you need recipe for that.”
I see what you’re doing here, Hassam. I AM PICKING UP WHAT YOU ARE PUTTING DOWN AND CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
You can bet yer big bippy that I’ll be walking out of Goodies with pomegranate paste on my next visit because YOU KNOW that I’ve googled that shit six ways from Sunday, even if I still don’t know for what purpose I shall use the rose water.
Our adventure finally landed us at the bulk barn where we were informed by a lovely and helpful, if heartbreakingly honest woman who informed us that essentials such as tarragon, juniper berries, and marjoram are no longer carried!
I know, right?
I was all “WAT?!?!”
And she was all “I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!”
I think some new trade embargoes are in order.
While I was crestfallen and, quite frankly, fucking agog at that revelation, I sincerely appreciated her validation and commiseration. We would have gone to the Main Ingredient to grab those last few things, but we were pretty burnt out on shopping by then and the sprogs can make their way there to fill any gaps, which I’m sure there are, anyway.
The look on Bobo’s face basically says “I don’t understand why you have all of these seed things, but are not planting them.” Bobo does not yet comprehend spices.
All of that came in just above $100 and is more than what was on the list, in spite of the bulk barn being total squares about not carrying some of the best things. Yes, it meant several stops and travelling across town to get it all done in that kind of budget, but there’s something to be said for being a bit frugal and a LOT picky about quality of ingredients in such a project. The sprogs each get a grocery bag FULL, and I mean FULL of goodies that should keep them going for a while.
I also found them the cutest, little, olive wood mortars and pestles (M&P):
Conversation with Megs revealed that some folks are M&P folk and some are not so much. I’m of the camp of daily M&P usage. It seems Megan is not. Luckily, I thought to have that convo with the sprogs in advance of purchasing whole spices and mortars and pestles, with the caveat that there is only one right answer, which is daily use of M&P because freshly ground > pre-ground, whenever possible. They answered correctly.
But seriously, while I am very glad that my culinary influence has worn off on them, it was pretty important to me to get them stuff they would use. If they weren’t going to be arsed to pull out the mortars and the pestles each time they needed cumin or caraway or whatever, then I would have purchased ground ingredients. While a lot of it was based on my opinion of what is essential in the pantry, the project was all about setting them up to COOK, not just look at their kitchens only to be uninspired enough to decide on take-out.
ALL of that said (I am such a wordy bint), I would love to know that all y’all consider essential to your arsenal of flavours. What did I miss (because I surely have overlooked some things)? Compel me to further indulge my herby, spicy habit (and pass that habit down to my loin fruits)!